Every time I feel like I have a handle on intuitive eating something new comes my way. This is especially true when it comes to giving myself permission to eat all foods label-free and without guilt. I started off with fairly standard “naughty” foods like chips, cake, and donuts. I tackled each one separately and only moved on once I felt that that particular food was normalized for me. This process started about three years ago and, after about year, I felt I had made peace with all foods, that is, until about a month ago.
My diet has some variety, but I noticed that some of my former go-to foods were not as appealing to me anymore. I think I was getting burnt out, particularly with nuts which is one of my primary sources of protein as a vegetarian. Because I love the crunch of nuts, I decided to peruse the grocery aisles with purpose one day in search of alternative crunchy snacks.
Success! I began eating my new snacks, but found that they didn’t fill me up as well. The nuts have fat, protein, and fiber which give me a sense of fullness, but my new snacks, while very crunchy, weren’t as nutritionally dense. I felt hungry more often and it began to feel reminiscent of my dieting days. I didn’t want to go there again, so I had to come up with a plan. To my dismay, my plan included looking at my decision to exclude meat from my repertoire of food options. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t kidding myself into thinking that I was a vegetarian solely for ethical reasons and not as a way to exclude a food group. I did not want my vegetarianism to be a diet in disguise.
As I look back, I recognize that I have had a slight nagging sensation for meat for more than a month. I don’t have an extreme craving for meat in general and the idea of the slaughtering still bothers me, but I have been having sporadic yet persistent thoughts of eating meat when someone mentions turkey sandwiches, and to a lesser degree, bacon. This desire only increased when I stopped eating as many nuts. I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of eating animals, but I knew my body was telling me something when I could feel full but not satisfied on a vegetarian diet.
When it came time to take action, I viewed eating meat as an experiment. This helped lessen my anxiety about the whole situation. My hypothesis was that eating meat would help me feel more satisfied. With mix of trepidation and anticipation, I purchased my humanely raised turkey meat from the deli counter at my local grocery store.1 I prepared my lunchtime sandwich as I normally would have but with a small slice of turkey added into the mix. After sitting down, I took a deep breath and bit into the sandwich. I did not have a profound physical reaction or extreme self-shaming.2 I simply viewed it as lunch with a slightly different twist.
This experience was a bit jarring for me because I saw vegetarianism as part of my identity. I am proud of it and am invested, but like learning to give up the label of “thin” when I stopped restricting, I may have to learn to give up the label of “vegetarian”. Ultimately, I don’t have to be 100% vegetarian to be someone who cares about animals.
Is my desire to become a vegetarian a remnant of dieting? Is it simply my body telling me that there is something in the meat that I am lacking with a vegetarian diet? I know that many vegetarians are perfectly fine without meat, but I believe that if my body is craving something, there is a reason for it. I could psychoanalyze myself to death in hopes of figuring this all out,3 but I will just trust my body in this case. Because this is an experiment, I’ll give it some time and then examine the results and determine if my body does indeed need meat or if I can do without.
The way I look at it is even if I do eat meat occasionally, I am doing less harm by consuming less and making a concerted effort to buy meat that comes from farmers who humanely raise and slaughter their animals.4 Getting caught up in labels like “vegetarian” only fuels my desire for perfection and increases the likelihood of feelings of failure and guilt if I go against that label.5 Giving up labels has been part of my growth as a person. And I’m still growing.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, do you ever have cravings for meat? If so, how do you respond to those cravings? Please share in the comment section below.
1The least I could do was make sure the turkey I was eating had a happy life and a less traumatic death.
2But, to be honest, there was a teeny part of me that was hoping that my mind and body would reject the turkey because the idea of being a vegetarian still appeals to me.
3But I don’t have time for that shit!
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
You’ve made it this far. Now subscribe for regular updates. It’s easy! And you get a FREE Intuitive Eating quiz when you sign up!
YouTube Version: Coming soon!